A little over a year ago, artist Spenser Little allowed me the privilege of writing a piece about him for a magazine. The magazine will not be named, but boy was it a hack job in terms of the final product, content, and visuals. Please enjoy a fuller and hopefully more visually appealing version of this piece.
It is late afternoon and the San Diego Autumn sky brightens with the breathtaking medley of vibrant colors that glisten at sunset. I had requested to do a meeting with “wire artist” Spenser Little and in the place of a studio visit I received an offer to meet at Ocean Beach, we could talk and he could bend. In the end we settled on meeting at my home, he could still work and we would have a quiet space to talk. It’s a ritual that has come to be something like normal for us; in the few years I have known Little we have sat together in his studio on numerous occasions, he would work while we discussed life, art, and the San Diego community.
A native San Diegan, Little carries the quintessential air of a cool, down-to earth Southern Californian. His mother was an English Literature professor, and his father a mechanical engineer for the government; he also wrote technical books on engineering, math, and metal technology. With these early influences, Little gained inspiration from the intersection of creative and mechanical qualities that are now prevalent in the work. His early years found him entrenched in skateboarding culture, an activity that taught him about the infinity of imagination and using the imagination to exact bodily precision. In his twenties he was sponsored and that allowed him to follow his passion for skating into a period of travel and learning. This phase came to an abrupt end after an injury resulting in full reconstructive surgery on both knees found him bedridden, and anxious. It is at this point that he took to making objects with wire as an outlet, something he describes as, “jumping into a river and being taken with the current”. It is this period that also coincided with his entry into the biotech industry.
After years of creating with no definitive goal, a surplus of works had built up and Little began to publicly install them, accenting street-poles throughout the city. This led to public attention and notes from people who were interested in purchasing his work, “it was the first time I realized my work had value”. In 2004 Little was offered his first art exhibition at a San Diego gallery that was called “Voice 1156” on 7th and Broadway. The show was an utter success and to his astonishment, it completely sold out that night. When Little was offered a severance from his job in biotech at the end of 2005, it was then that he decided to become a full-time artist. “That was around the time I moved into the Glashaus space in Barrio Logan”, it was in this studio that he grew his career.
Little’s work is something of an enigma, much like the man. They range from subversive social commentaries to realistic portraits. Each work is a thing of beauty, slowly crafted by hand, each bend of the wire is a result of wit, patience, and time. Perhaps that is what makes his work so emotive, there is more to it than simply an image, it is material, patience, labor. “He has related his wire work to a mixture of playing chess and illustration, as the problem-solving component of the work is what continues to inspire himself to create larger and more complex pieces,” Thinkspace Projects says. “Some works contain moving components and multiple wires, but mostly the pieces are formed from one continuous piece of wire that is bent and molded to Little’s will.”
Many of his early artistic years were spent in his former studio at the Glashaus. The space offered Little a place to grow, from volunteering to teach young kids how to work with wood and metal, to open studios nights interacting with local collectors; it was the studio where he and his audience grew. Unfortunately, Glashaus closed abruptly at the end of 2017 and with it Little’s longtime studio. While this was not the most ideal turn of events for the artist, he is currently working out of a larger studio in Little Italy and at long last gaining more recognition than ever. In addition, he has had growing success through his work with Thinkspace Projects and is currently traveling, installing, and bending to his heart’s content. See more of Spenser’s work on his instagram page or via Thinkspace’s website (listed below).
Artist Website: https://www.instagram.com/spenserlittleart/
Thinkspace Projects: https://thinkspaceprojects.com/artists/spenser-little/